An assessment of achievements of the WEEE Directive in promoting movement up the waste hierarchy: experiences in the UK
journal contributionposted on 04.03.2019, 14:34 by Christine Cole, Alex Gnanapragasam, Tim Cooper, Jagdeep Singh
Rapidly developing technology and an increasing number of products containing electrical or electronicfunctions, has led to discarded electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) being one of the fastest growingwaste streams. The European Union (EU) has enacted several iterations of the Waste Electrical andElectronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive to address this complex waste stream. However, recycling dom-inates treatments for e-waste, despite the established ‘waste hierarchy’ showing waste prevention andreuse are generally preferable to recycling.This paper reports on 30 semi-structured interviews, undertaken across the EEE value chain, examiningthe impact of the WEEE Directive in the UK. The interviews confirmed that reuse takes place for a limitednumber of product types, mostly on a small scale. Additionally, whilst legislation has prompted innova-tion in recycling and higher capture rates, resource recovery is in practice limited to easily salvageablematerials, whilst recovery of critical raw materials is often neglected. Furthermore, there is confusionaround available collection networks, particularly for small WEEE, which consistently appears in residualwaste streams.The waste hierarchy remains the key component of EU waste strategy and moving to the higher levelsof the waste hierarchy is an essential part of achieving sustainable waste management and movingtowards a circular economy. The paper proposes a series of measures to this end: promoting recoveryroutes and practices that facilitate reuse of suitable products, adapting recycling technology to increaserecovery of critical raw materials and targeted policies to encourage the application of the waste hierar-chy within a resource efficiency-oriented framework.
This work was supported by the United Kingdom’s Engineering andPhysical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) [grant numberEP/N022645/1], as part of the work undertaken by Centre forIndustrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP) at Notting-ham Trent University where the project was managed by ProfTim Cooper. Dr Jagdeep Singh acknowledges the financial supportof Urban Reconomy by Formas 211-2014-1440.
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